Bennet holds first farm bill hearing in Fort Collins, Colo. | TheFencePost.com

Bennet holds first farm bill hearing in Fort Collins, Colo.

Upcoming meetings

There are still a number of meetings for people across Colorado to attend to express their wants, needs and concerns regarding the upcoming farm bill.

To RSVP go to here or call James Thompson at (970) 224-2200.

March 28

Burlington

10:30am-12pm

Midway Theater and Cultural Event Center

446 14th St., Burlington, CO 80807

Limon

2-3:30pm

Limon Community Building

North Room

477 D Ave., Limon, CO 80828

March 29

Walsh

9-10:30am

Walsh Community Building

100 N. Colorado St., Walsh, CO 81090

Lamar

1-2:30pm

Lamar Community College

Buchanan Events Room

2401 S Main St., Lamar, CO 81052

La Junta

3:30-5pm

Otero Junior College

Student Center Banquet Room

2001 San Juan Ave., La Junta, CO 81050

March 30

Trinidad

9-10:30am

Mount Carmel Community Center

Ziccardi Hall

911 Robinson Ave., Trinidad, CO 81082

Avondale

1-2:30pm

McHarg Park Community Center

405 2nd Ln., Avondale, CO 81022

In between hearings for the new farm bill, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., has representatives leading listening sessions with constituents about their concerns, wants and priorities for the legislature.

There were about 30 people present to discuss their thoughts on what should be included and what should be modified in the upcoming bill. However, discussion at the first session, which was held March 20 at the Colorado State University CoBank Center in Fort Collins, Colo., was about the transitioning the farm to the younger generation and support for young farmers just starting out.

YOUNG FARMERS

Part of the concern stemed from struggles many new farmers face — even if they're starting out on a small amout of land. Land is normally hard enough to come by if someone doesn't have the funds or connections to inherit the land.

“The dilemma is farmers and ranchers need to produce something to pay for the land costs so much that they have to farm more, which is leading to more surplus.” Dale McCall President of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union.

And that doesn't even cover water rights.

Land prices increase when water rights are attached, and, obviously, water is a big and necessary commodity for any producer.

Many at the session said there are plenty of people interested in farming, but don't have the means to get started.

Jacki Paone, the Jefferson County director for the Colorado State Extension office, said, even though Jefferson County is largely an urban area, some of those who want to dive into farming aren't necessarily looking for large plots of land. Even an acre is hard for them to come by.

"The biggest concern is the land," she said. "They're creative, they want to do it but can't find the land."

Paone wasn't the only person to see the lack of land access as an issue.

Even in rural areas the issue of land availability remains.

For those new farmers who were able to obtain land, crop insurance becomes the next problem. Farmers need to have a base established for crop insurance, leaving new farmers vulnerable to Mother Nature and other damage without getting the insurance help they'd need.

It takes a few years for crop values to be established.

"We've got to have support for new farmers, not matter the size," said Dale McCall, president of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union.

COMMODITY AND LAND PRICES

With commodity prices at the lowest level in years, some producers at the session expressed their concerns about making sure protection programs are put into place as a safe guard. The current farm bill doesn't really have anything like that.

But when the current farm bill was approved, many farmers were reaping the benefits of high crop prices.

Now that this is no longer the case, some producers are advocating for better protection for years when farmers are struggling because of the cyclical nature of the farm economy.

This especially iimpacts those who are still paying off or renting their land.

"The dilemma is farmers and ranchers need to produce something to pay for the land costs so much that they have to farm more, which is leading to more surplus," McCall said.

But, as it was pointed out in the session, farming isn't, necessarily, the most viable career path. Those who go into farming can't expect to consistently make profits, or sometimes break even.

While it seemed like an extreme idea, Brian Coppom, the executive director of the Boulder County Farmers Market, said it could be a possibility to look into charging for environmental services — like charging for air use.

"Make more money geared towards eco-services because it makes farming more viable," he said. ❖

— Fox is a reporter with The Fence Post. She can be reached at (970) 392-4410, sfox@thefencepost.com or on Twitter @FoxonaFarm.